FCA drops $30 million on Michigan autonomous-driving research facility

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan Waymo Self-driving Test Fleet

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is investing $30 million in a new research facility that will focus on autonomous-driving tech and driver-assist systems. The new facility will be located at FCA’s sprawling Chelsea Proving Grounds in southeastern Michigan.

The facility will include a highway-speed test track meant to replicate real-world driving conditions. The track will have “obstacles, tunnels, varying road lighting conditions, and interstate-style exit and entrance ramps,” according to FCA. The track will be used for testing self-driving cars. A separate 35-acre paved area will be used for testing driver-assist features for human-driven vehicles, such as autonomous emergency braking.

Testing will be overseen from a 6,500-square-foot command center, which will also house equipment for testing how vehicles communicate with their environment. Self-driving cars rely on GPS signals to determine where they are, so any interruption in that signal can be disastrous. Many companies are also testing so-called vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) or vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) tech, which allows cars to communicate with each other and their surroundings in order to alert human drivers or, potentially, autonomous-driving systems of potential danger.

FCA will also use the facility to test its vehicles against third-party standards devised by organizations such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP). These organizations are responsible for crash-test ratings, but are also branching out into ratings for driver-assist systems. The IIHS, for example, currently rates tech for forward-collision avoidance.

The new facility will augment FCA’s existing Chelsea Proving Grounds, which opened in 1954. In its current form, the proving grounds cover nearly 4,000 acres and are staffed by about 900 people. The site has 100 miles of roads, plus off-road areas replicating famous trails like the Rubicon — perfect for testing new Jeeps.

So far, FCA’s self-driving car efforts have mostly consisted of supplying Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo. The Google spinoff had 600 of the minivans in its fleet as of May 2018 and has agreed to buy up to 62,000 more. Waymo has another agreement with Jaguar to buy up to 20,000 I-Pace electric crossovers. The massive fleet will support Waymo’s plans to launch a commercial ridesharing service using autonomous cars.

Cars

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.
Mobile

Ditch your smartphone for a year and win $100k from Vitaminwater

Vitaminwater is willing to part with $100,000 if you're willing to part with your smartphone partner for a year. Could you last for a year armed with only a 1996-era phone? Here's your chance to find out.
Cars

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.
Cars

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.
Cars

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.
Cars

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Mobile

McLaren puts the pedal to the metal in special-edition OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is yet another flagship killer smartphone, bringing powerful specifications to a much lower price than the competition. Now, OnePlus has teamed up with McLaren for the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.
Cars

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.
Cars

Aston Martin’s 1,000-hp Valkyrie will boast the Mona Lisa of the engine world

Aston Martin has released new details about its F1-inspired Valkyrie hypercar. Co-developed with Red Bull Racing, the Valkyrie will be one of the most aerodynamic production cars ever made.
Cars

The redesigned 2020 Passat shows Volkswagen still believes in sedans

The sedan segment in America is shrinking, but Volkswagen still believes in it. The German firm has released a teaser sketch to preview the redesigned 2020 Passat it will introduce during the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.
Cars

Infiniti previews its leap into one of the hottest industry segments

Infiniti has released a teaser image to preview a concept it will unveil at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The yet-unnamed design study is an electric crossover shaped by Infiniti's newest design language.